Australian Open Buzz: The Thrill of Vika and the Azarenka of Defeat

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2016 Australian Open - Day 11 : News Photo

Angelique Kerber has reached her first Grand Slam final in Melbourne. Photo: Getty Images

OUR FAVORITE T-SHIRT: A Brisbane woman sported a T-shirt that revived Oscar Wilde’s suggestion, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”

BALLSY COMMENTARY: After a linesman was hit in his private parts by a serve, a voice in the press room called out, “New balls, please.”

OUR FAVORITE PHRASE: Broadcaster Craig Willis used the phrase “a bee’s nadget,” which means a very thin margin.

MONKEY BUSINESS: When it suddenly started drizzling amidst the Melbourne sun, ESPN’s Cliff Drysdale said, “It’s like a monkey’s wedding.” He explained that it’s a South African phrase referring to when it’s raining and the sun is out. Pam Shriver said her next wedding will be like a monkey’s wedding…Last year, Novak Djokovic said he wouldn’t trade a single Grand Slam for an invitation to Andy Murray’s wedding…Bjorn Borg sold the rights to photograph his 1989 wedding to rocker Loredana Berte to a single photographer, but others objected and a brawl broke out…At his second wedding, McEnroe was glad it rained, since the bad light spelled problems for photographers…Writer Bruce Jenkins said the very young Monica Seles was like “the perennial giddy teenager at her first wedding reception, working on her third glass of champagne”…Before his wedding, the very religious Michael Chang confided, “You may be blown away that I am a virgin…I’m looking forward to that wedding night when I can give my wife something that I have not shared with anyone”…6,000 guests attended Mahesh Bhupathi’s nuptials…Anna Kournikova said, “Weddings and marriages and whatever, it’s not something very important to me. I believe in people being together and just having fun.”…Holland’s Paul Haarhuis said if his marriage led to problems with his tennis, it would lead to a quick divorce.

NO RESPECT: No matter what he does, it’s hard for Djokovic to attract a lot of love. After his stunning win over Federer in the Aussie Open semis, the headlines read, “Djok and Awe,” “Brutal Novak Shows No Mercy” and “Novak Shows Little Pity” (as if he’s supposed to).

ROD ON ROGER: When asked whether Federer could win another Grand Slam, Rod Laver  said, “I think it’s possible, but maybe it’s a big stretch.”

THE THRILL OF VICTORY AND THE AGONY OF DEFEAT: The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat is one of the great iconic phrases in tennis. But at the Aussie Open, it was the thrill of Vika (who won her opening round match 6-0, 6-0 and offered a “dab” victory gesture) and the “Azarenka” of defeat. The former two-time Aussie Open champion had a wide open path to the finals, but fell to Angelique Kerber for the first time in their seven matches.

LAVER CUP: Roger Federer’s agency, Team8, announced the creation of The Laver Cup, a Ryder Cup-like international competition at the end of September which will have six European players face off against a team from the rest of the world in both singles and doubles. Federer told the New York Times that the event, named in honor of the 77-year-old Aussie legend, will not pay appearance fees and won’t be a threat to the Davis Cup.

AND THE BEAT GOES ON: Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis won their third straight Grand Slam when they captured the Aussie Open women’s doubles. It was their 12th title together and the final was their 36th straight win, the longest streak in women’s doubles since 1990.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A SLAM MAKES: At Serena’s last Slam – the US Open – the world was watching, the pressure unrelenting. The media pounced, expectations were huge. But, here in Melbourne, it’s a new day. This is the friendly Slam and Serena is cruising, relaxed and seemingly poised to win a record 22nd Grand Slam. She has a 6-1 record against Angie Kerber. But, of course, anything is possible. 

QUOTEBOOK:

“Before we saw the clown. Now we see Ivan Lendl.” – French commentator Henri Leconte on Gael Monfils, who is now playing with more focus

“He’s Roger Federer, no doubt about that.” – Jim Courier

“He’s almost the perfect human being.” – Australia’s Channel 7, on Federer

“She makes you go back to the drawing board and that’s really inspiring.” – Maria Sharapova, on her 2-19 record against Serena

A BIG STEP: It can be announced: Venus is on the Indian Wells entry list.

JUST WONDERING: It will take time to get to the bottom of the gambling, match-fixing controversy, but why can’t tennis officials simply announce that they want to send a clear message about gambling and will no longer accept money from gambling companies as commercial partners? And for that matter, that they will try to get out of their many current agreements?.

SHARAPOVA VS. SHAMIL: Russian Fed Cup captain Shamil Tarpsichev had some strong words for Maria Sharapova. “If she withdraws from playing [against the] Netherlands and we lose the match she will not play at the Olympics…Probably Sharapova has issued her statement [about Fed Cup] too rashly. I think she and her managers should consider their decision once again.” 

RANKINGS NOSE-DIVE: Simona Halep will be out of the game for a month and a half for nose surgery because of a deviated septum. This likely means the  Indian Wells champion will not be defending her points. Years back, Halep had breast reduction surgery to help her game.

TENNIS CHANNEL SOLD: The Tennis Channel was sold to the Baltimore-based Sinclair Corporation. CEO Ken Solomon will stay on board – still, many wonder what effect the move will have.

GUYS IN THE LOCKER ROOM: In the much-circulated video of Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov watching Sharapova play Lauren Davis, Federer offers a demeaning quip about the women. Roger wasn’t happy that his dismissive comment was captured on video and the camera has since been turned off.

THE BRITISH ARE COMING: With Andy Murray and Jo Konta, Great Britain had a man and a woman in the final four of a Slam for the first time since 1977. Konta is also the first British woman to reach an Aussie Open semi since 1977. Jamie Murray is in the men’s doubles final with Brazilian Bruno Soares and British players have been dominating the wheelchair play.

NO QUESTION ABOUT IT: Jo Konta has the most distinctive service ritual and motion since John McEnroe.

THE HUNGARIAN CONNECTION: Britain’s Jo Konta has Hungarian parents and grew up in Australia before she went off to Spain in hopes of becoming a tennis pro. Eventually she settled in Britain and she seems about as British as the queen. She’s repeatedly been asked by Aussie journalists if she would consider coming back “Down Under.” But Konta dismisses the notion. BTW: The last lefty to reach an Aussie Open final, Monica Seles, also had parents who were Hungarian.

HUMILITY IS ALIVE AND WELL IN MELBOURNE: After having gotten into the semis, Konta said, “I’m incredibly humbled and grateful to be in the position I’m in.”   

THE SELES CONNECTION: Angelique Kerber is the first left-hander in the Aussie Open women’s final since Monica Seles in 1996. By the way, Seles and semi-finalist Johanna Konta are both of Hungarian origin.

NO BOOKENDS: If Konta had beaten Kerber she would have had the opportunity to have beaten Venus in the first round and Serena in the final.  

HEY RAFA FANS, ALLOW US TO SAY THIS AND SOME OTHER THINGS ABOUT ANGELIQUE KERBER: 

* Some suggest, that in a way, with her lefty consistency, strong legs, and counterpuncher’s ability to quickly convert defense to offense, she’s like the WTA’s Nadal. But she yells “C’mon,” not “Vamos!”

• She narrowly escaped being eliminated in the first round when she was down match point to Japan’s Misaki Doi. 

• Some fans call finalist Kerber the “unsung hero of the WTA” for the large number of three-set thrillers she’s been involved in, like her win over Venus at 2012 US Open, her win over Sharapova at 2014 Wimbledon, her loss to Azarenka at last year’s US Open and her Fed Cup loss to Kvitova last year. Many of the four titles last year – especially her win over Madison Keys in the Charleston final – involved tense three-set matches in which she showed her counterpunching mettle.

• The German was the only player in the WTA top 10 who hadn’t reached a Slam final. She is the first German to reach the Aussie Open final since Anke Huber in 1996.

• Her quarterfinal win over Vika overcame a 0-6 record.

MESSAGE TO STEFFI: After winning her semifinal match, Angelique Kerber gushed, “Write me, Steffi.” Years ago a fan called out to Steffi, “Marry me.” Graf quipped, “How rich are you?” 

EVERYTHING: After losing to Angelique Kerber in the quarters, Vika Azarenka said, “I am going to be pissed off today. I am going to let myself have that.” She added that while she’s improved a lot from last year, she didn’t push herself mentally, and she has to be more consistent and work on “everything” – that’s all.  

WHAT MILOS RAONIC, ARTHUR ASHE, MICHAEL CHANG, TODD MARTIN AND JAMES BLAKE HAVE IN COMMON: All are profoundly cerebral. 

ISSUE OF THE DAY: The new head of the tennis Independent Review Board has had so many ties to major sporting and tennis organizations. So how much of an independent and unrelentingly vigorous mindset will he bring to the investigation?

WHO KNEW? When Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt and American Davis Cup captain Jim Courier were broadcasting the Aussie Open together, Hewitt said, “There’s a massive Davis Cup coming up.” Courier then quipped, “Who knew?”

Additional reporting by Tanya Liesegang